Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mom's Diaries

This picture published in the Courier-Journal yesterday from the Evansville paper and taken by Denny Simmons.  It shows deer congregated on the little high ground from the flood in Indiana.

Recently I have been typing my mother's diary. She kept one for about a decade. She might have done so earlier in her life but there is no record if she did.

When I was eleven I got one of those red leatherette books with the strap from my grandmother. It had a clasp, lock and key. I wrote in it when I had something I thought important to document. In 2001 I began writing in a WORD document what I stated was my journal. I began again in 2002. In 2003 was the first year I wrote almost every day. I've continued until the present day.

When I learned my mom was keeping a diary she showed me these slips of note paper about 4" long and 2" wide. I bought her a blank book in 1987 and every year after that I bought her a blank book to use. Her handwriting is very small and each day she wrote from 80 to 100 words in one paragraph. Most days she begins after the date by saying what the temperature is and what time she checked the temperature. Often when I was visiting she would call the local time and temperature recording several times a day but usually she did not record it in her diary more than once.

May 8, 1986, Thursday
The sun is shining 7:00 am 66 degrees. Mabel called about the things coming up for homemaker's. I didn't feel like much this morning. Everything looks fresh from the rain last night. Called the doctor's office said would call in a prescription for nerves. I went out got it. Fixed pistachio pudding salad and took to Mother-daughter banquet at church tonight. Charlene came up and went with me. Was in 50s come. I think I had a good salad.
She was 73 years old on that day in 1987.

Her days fascinate me. She recorded who she spoke to on the phone or in person and what she did with her time generally. She would say if she watched a movie or listened to Billy Graham on the television. She would say what she ate for lunch or supper. If there was a pitch-in planned at church she said what she made to take. There is also an account of what she planted in her garden and when she picked something what she did with it. She shared her tomatoes and gooseberries. Her friends shared their rhubarb and tickets to lectures and banquet suppers. If she had lots of produce she canned it or froze it and accounted for how many quarts or pints she put up.

She made a cake or pie or casserole more often that you'd think and then shared it with her neighbor next door or across the street. She volunteered at the Hospital Auxiliary weekly and worked for the Missionary society at church. She and some friends were responsible for communion at her church. She picked up others and took them to church or they picked her up to go to church or other community meetings. She and her friends almost always went out for lunch after Sunday morning church. She would specify where they whet, what she ate, how much it cost and if she had a coupon.

She would account for letters she wrote to which relative or friends who were visiting their children or on vacation. She sent birthday, anniversary, condolence and get well cards. She documented who wrote her a letter or sent a greeting or post card. Often she called a mutual friend and read the letter she got to them and they did the same. When someone died, was sick or in an accident, she called her friends and told them. They did the same. She visited people at the hospital and local nursing home.

One thing she never did was speak about politics or mention entertainment news. I know this was not reported in such detail on the television or radio, but the closest she came was to mention was when a famous person died or if there was a major world disaster.

Considering how much she disagreed with my sister marrying her husband or me marrying Dennis, she referred to we couples as "the children." She documented conversations she had with Dennis. He sure loved her and she him. I think he was the son she wished she'd had.

I don't rant and rave in my journal but I do give my opinion of things that happen or what I'm thinking about something I'm trying to accomplish or decide on. She never revealed this in her writing. I wish she had.

I've completed the year 1986, which I believe it the first year and am a couple months shy of 1987.  Lenny asked me the other day why I was typing the diaries.  I told him I wanted to.

When my mom was packing up her house and moving to Arizona to live near my sister she asked who wanted her diaries and the letters our father had written her before they married. My sister wanted both. I said I'd like the diaries. After Mom died in 1998 my sister tried to get me to give her the diaries. I told her I'd send her copies of the typed document. I feel lucky to have them and hope to get them typed up and put online. I guess I'm a little behind in the typing.

Heck, John Adams has daily Tweets from 200 years ago.  My mom's words are not important to world history but they are important to me.


  1. you are so very blessed to have this history of your mom, I so wish mine had kept a diary or journal. I have so many questions now that I wish I had asked her...always too late. Thanks for sharing a little piece of her with us.

  2. How lovely. Your love for your mother is most apparent without you having to say the words. But, Charlene, one question: What the hell is pistachio pudding salad? It sounds delicious and gross all at the same time! Can you share the recipe?

  3. I could never have kept a diary. Incriminating evidence, ya know.

  4. JoJo: I have questions I'll never get answered too. I would have loved if my grandmother had a diary too.

    Koops: Pistachio pudding is a dish that women in small towns take to church suppers; the Louisville variety of green jello.

    Here's a recipe.

    • 1 (3 ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
    • 1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
    • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
    • 1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
    • 1 cup chopped walnuts
    • 3 bananas, sliced

    1. In a large bowl, fold together the pudding mix and whipped topping.
    2. Add marshmallows, pineapple with syrup, nuts & bananas. Mix & refrigerate overnight.

    Coffeypot: A wise person with an "interesting" past or present.

  5. beautiful photo and lovely thing what you are doing...

  6. What a wonderful insight you have to your mom's life. And that pudding sounds good -- I think I'd add some real pistachios to it!!

  7. I found my grandmother's diaries after she left, but they were too ad to read. Page after page of her missing my grandfather.

  8. I love this. My grandmother kept the same type of diary. When she died her daughter took them. Her daughter's daughters and another cousin of mine have read them, but they won't share them I think that is just wrong, but I'm not going to be able to change that. I guess she wasn't always nice about what she said about my mother who was married to her oldest son. I say, "Oh well, it was obvious she didn't like my mother." At least maybe I would find out why if I could read the diaries. My mother at age 95 has outlived all the previous generation.

  9. YD: Thanks.

    KathyA: I know it's lucky to have these but I wish she gave more of her thoughts.

    Secret Agent: My dad died when I was 8. She never had anything to do with men romantically after that. She never mentions my Dad in her diaries other than saying when it's their anniversary.

    English Teacher: There was contention with my sister on these. Mom did not reveal any closet secrets so I think the rub was she did not have them in her hands. SMILE

  10. I've kept a journal for many years. Sometimes when I need inspiration, I'll pull one out and flip open a page at random.
    It never fails to give me an idea.
    I think it's great that you're transcribing them. Believe me, I'd rather read what your mother was doing 30 years ago, than read about what the celebrity of the day is doing.

  11. what an incredible gift, your mom's diary.....
    I think there is such beauty in the ordinary, and day to day routines fascinate me.( I know, I am kinda strange)

  12. After inheriting my mom's letters and diaries, and my dad's paperwork, and old papers from my brother, turns out I'm the family historian. I have compiled everything, chronoligically (as far as is possible) in large binders. It's a bit overwhelming but intensely fascinating. There are entries of family events that I had long forgotten, along with memories that were made before I was born. I highly recommend ferreting out those old bits and pieces that your family may have in an old file cabinet, in a stack on a bookshelf, or stuffed into a binder, and like Life 101 said, life in the family 30 years ago is far more illuminating than what the celeb du jour is doing.

  13. This is a lovely piece of writing-- a mothers day gift. I love the canning and freezing food part, and the careful optimism you (and she) express. Wouldn't it be great to scan the diaries and just have the computer do the typing with OCR? Your keyboarding from your Mom's handwritten entries is such a devoted labor. Good luck with it.


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